Stonechat’s a tough little bird
THE sighting of a lively little stonechat is certain to brighten up a winter’s day.
There appear to be plenty of these attractive small birds around Teesside at the moment, especially in coastal areas.
Stonechats are easily dismissed in silhouette because they are virtually the same shape and size as a robin. But when you are strolling along a path they have a habit of staying close by, flying ahead of you and repeatedly flicking their wings when they land three or four fence-posts ahead.
As you can see from this superb picture from John Money, right, which shows a male stonechat in full plumage, the bird is a little cracker.
The males have striking black heads with white collars, and orange-red breasts.
As often happens in the birding world, the females are not so showy, though they still have plenty of orange on their breasts which makes them stand out.
Stonechats get their name ap- parently because their sharp shrill song sounds like two stones being rubbed together.
They are one of the few insecteating birds to tough it out through the British winters, though they will also take seeds and any remaining blackberries which they find in coastal shrub.
In ancient Scottish folklore the stonechat was believed to possess occult powers which later inspired the poet WH Auden when he wrote The Wanderer.
Personally the only power which the stonechat possesses is one which encourages me to make as many coastal treks as possible during the winter.
From stonechats to starfish, and Keith Parnell recently had a strange experience at his Redcar home.
He said: “I was sitting in my conservatory when there was a bang on the roof. Expecting to find an injured or dead bird on the ground, imagine my surprise when I found a leg from a starfish.
“It was still fresh too – obviously dropped by one of the many gulls flying around Redcar.” It’s a well-known fact that starfish can regenerate a lost arm, so we must hope that the unfortunate starfish had this arm bitten away on the beach and is currently growing a new one in a Redcar rock pool.
Starfish actually store most of their vital organs in their arms. I understand that it is possible for some starfish to regenerate a completely new starfish from just one arm and a portion of the central disc.
Maybe Keith should put the leg in a bucket of salty water!
Eric would like to hear from readers about what they have seen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org